The Sky Is Falling
Chapter Nine

 Sidney Sheldon

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THEY WERE IN the middle of their morning meeting aboutCrime Line, and Dana was in the conference room with half a dozen staff reporters and researchers.
Olivia poked her head in. "Mr. Baker would like to see you."
"Tell him I'll be there in a minute."
"The boss is waiting for you."
"Thanks, Abbe. You're looking cheerful."
Abbe nodded. "I finally got a good night's sleep. For the last - "
"Dana? Come in here," Matt yelled.
"To be continued," Abbe said.
Dana walked into Matt's office. "How did the meeting with Roger Hudson go?"
"I have a feeling he wasn't very interested. He thinks my theory is crazy."
"I told you he's not Mr. Warmth."
"He does take a little getting used to. His wife is lovely. You should hear her on the subject of Washington society madness. Talk about wickedness."
"I know. She's a wonderful lady."
Dana ran into Elliot Cromwell in the executive dining room.
"Join me," Elliot Cromwell said.
"Thank you." Dana sat down.
"How's Kemal?"
Dana hesitated. "At the moment, I'm afraid there's a problem."
"Oh? What kind of problem?"
"Kemal was expelled from school."
"He got in a fight and sent a boy to the hospital."
"That would do it."
"I'm sure the fight wasn't Kemal's fault," Dana said defensively. "He gets teased a lot because he has only one arm."
Elliot Cromwell said, "I suppose it's really difficult for him."
"It is. I'm trying to get him a prosthesis. There seem to be problems."
"What grade is Kemal in?"
Elliot Cromwell was thoughtful. "Are you familiar with the Lincoln Preparatory School?"
"Oh, yes. But I understand it's very difficult to get into." She added, "And I'm afraid Kemal's grades aren't very good."
"I have a few contacts there. Would you like me to speak to someone?"
"I - that's very kind of you."
"It will be my pleasure."
Later that day Elliot Cromwell sent for Dana.
"I have good news for you. I spoke to the principal at the Lincoln Preparatory School, and she's agreed to have Kemal enrolled there on a trial basis. Could you take him over tomorrow morning?"
"Of course. I - " It took Dana a moment to let it sink in. "Oh, that's wonderful! I'm so pleased. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it, Elliot."
"I want you to know that I appreciateyou, Dana. I think it was wonderful of you to have brought Kemal to this country. You're a very special person."
"I - thank you."
When Dana left the office, she thought, That took a lot of clout. And a lot of kindness.
Lincoln Preparatory School was an imposing complex consisting of a large Edwardian building, three smaller annexes, spacious, well-tended grounds, and extensive, manicured playing fields.
Standing in front of the entrance, Dana said, "Kemal, this is the best school in Washington. You can learn a lot here, but you have to have a positive attitude about it. Do you understand?"
"And you can't get into any fights."
Kemal did not answer.
Dana and Kemal were ushered into the office of Rowana Trott, the school's principal. She was an attractive woman with a friendly manner.
"Welcome," she said. She turned to Kemal. "I've heard a great deal about you, young man. We're all looking forward to having you here."
Dana waited for Kemal to say something. When he was silent, she said, "Kemal is looking forward to being here."
"Good. I think you're going to make some very nice friends at our school."
Kemal stood there without answering.
An older woman came into the office. Mrs. Trott said, "This is Becky. Becky, this is Kemal. Why don't you show Kemal around? Let him become acquainted with some of his teachers."
"Certainly. This way, Kemal."
Kemal looked at Dana beseechingly, then turned and followed Becky out the door.
"I want to explain about Kemal," Dana began. "He - "
Mrs. Trott said, "You don't have to, Miss Evans. Elliot Cromwell told me about the situation and about Kemal's background. I understand he's been through more than any child should ever have to go through, and we're prepared to make allowances for that."
"Thank you," Dana said.
"I have a transcript of his grades from Theodore Roosevelt Middle School. We're going to see if we can't better them."
Dana nodded. "Kemal's a very bright boy."
"I'm sure he is. His grades in math prove that. We're going to try to give him an incentive to excel in all his other subjects."
"The fact that he has only one arm is very traumatic for him," Dana said. "I hope to be able to solve that."
Mrs. Trott nodded understandingly. "Of course."
When Kemal was through with his tour of the school and he and Dana were walking back to the car, Dana said, "I know you're going to like it here."
Kemal was silent.
"It's a beautiful school, isn't it?"
Kemal said, "It sucks."
Dana stopped. "Why?"
Kemal's voice was choked. "They have tennis courts and a football field and I can't - " His eyes filled with tears.
Dana wrapped her arms around him. "I'm sorry, darling." And she thought to herself, I've got to do something about this.
The dinner party at the Hudsons' on Saturday night was a glamorous, black-tie affair. The beautiful rooms were filled with the movers and shakers of the nation's capital, including the Secretary of Defense, several members of Congress, the head of the Federal Reserve, and the ambassador from Germany.
Roger and Pamela were standing at the door when Dana and Jeff arrived. Dana introduced Jeff.
"I enjoy your sports column and broadcasts," Roger Hudson said.
"Thank you."
Pamela said, "Let me introduce you to some of our guests."
Many of the faces were familiar, and the greetings were cordial. It seemed that most of the guests were fans of either Dana or Jeff or both of them.
When they were alone for a moment, Dana said, "My God. The guest list here reads likeWho's Who. "
Jeff took her hand. "You'rethe biggest celebrity here, darling."
"No way," Dana said. "I'm just - "
At that moment, Dana saw General Victor Booster and Jack Stone heading toward them.
"Good evening, General," Dana said.
Booster looked at her and said rudely, "What the hell are you doing here?"
Dana flushed.
"This is a social evening," the general snapped. "I didn't know the media was invited."
Jeff looked at General Booster, furious. "Hold it!" he said. "We have as much right - "
Victor Booster ignored him. He leaned close to Dana. "Remember what I promised you if you go looking for trouble." He walked away.
Jeff looked after him disbelievingly. "Jesus. What was that all about?"
Jack Stone stood there, red-faced. "I'm - I'm terribly sorry. The general gets that way sometimes. He isn't always tactful."
"We noticed," Jeff said icily.
The dinner itself was fantastic. In front of each couple was a beautifully handwritten menu:
Russian blini with beluga caviar and light vodka cream cheese
Ambassador pheasant broth with white truffle essence and green asparagus
Bismarck foie gras with Boston lettuce, peppercorns, and Xeres vinegar dressing
Maine lobster thermidor glazed with Mornay champagne sauce
Fillet of beef Wellington with roasted potato Orloff and sauteed vegetables
Warm chocolate souffle with orange zest liqueur and chocolate morsels, served with nougatine sauce
It was a Lucullan banquet.
To Dana's surprise, she found that she had been seated next to Roger Hudson. Pamela's doing, she thought.
"Pamela mentioned that Kemal is enrolled in the Lincoln Preparatory School."
Dana smiled. "Yes. Elliot Cromwell arranged it. He's a remarkable man."
Roger Hudson nodded. "So I've heard."
He hesitated a moment. "This may mean nothing, but it seems that shortly before Taylor Winthrop became our ambassador to Russia, he told close friends that he had definitely retired from public life."
Dana frowned. "And then he accepted the ambassadorship to Russia?"
On the way home, Jeff asked Dana, "What did you do to make such a fan of General Booster?"
"He doesn't want me investigating the deaths in the Winthrop family."
"Why not?"
"He doesn't explain. He just barks."
Jeff said slowly, "His bite is worse than his bark, Dana. He's a bad enemy to have."
She looked at Jeff curiously. "Why?"
"He's head of the FRA, the Federal Research Agency."
"I know. They develop technology to help underdeveloped countries learn modern production and - "
Jeff said dryly, "And there really is a Santa Claus."
Dana looked at him, puzzled. "What are you talking about?"
"The agency is a cover-up. The real function of the FRA is to spy on foreign intelligence agencies and intercept their communications. It's ironic. "Frater" means brother in Latin - only this is Big Brother, and Big Brother sure as hell is watching everybody. They're more secretive than even the NSA."
Dana said thoughtfully, "Taylor Winthrop was once the head of the FRA. That's interesting."
"I would advise you to stay as far away as you can from General Booster."
"I intend to."
"I know you have a sitter problem tonight, honey, so if you have to get home - "
Dana nestled against him. "No way. The sitter can wait. I can't. Let's go to your place."
Jeff grinned. "I thought you'd never ask."
Jeff lived in a small apartment in a four-story building on Madison Street. Jeff led Dana into the bedroom.
"I'll be glad when we move into a bigger apartment," Jeff said. "Kemal has to have his own room. Why don't we - ?"
"Why don't we stop talking?" Dana suggested.
Jeff took her in his arms. "Great idea." He reached behind her and curved his hands around her hips, stroking her softly and gently. He started to undress her.
"Do you know you have a great body?"
"All the fellows tell me that," Dana said. "It's the talk of the town. Are you planning to get undressed?"
"I'm thinking it over."
Dana moved up against him and started to unbutton his shirt.
"Do you know you're a hussy?"
She smiled. "You bet."
When Jeff finished undressing, Dana was in bed waiting for him. She warmed herself in the summer of his arms. He was a wonderful lover, sensual and caring.
"I love you so much," Dana whispered.
"I love you, my darling."
As Jeff reached for her, a cell phone rang.
"Yours or mine?"
They laughed. It rang again.
"Mine," Jeff said. "Let it ring."
"It might be important," Dana said.
"Oh, all right." Jeff sat up, disgruntled. He picked up the phone. "Hello?" His voice changed. "No, it's all right...Go ahead...Of course...I'm sure there's nothing to worry about. It's probably just stress."
The conversation went on for five minutes. "Right...So take it easy...Fine...Good night, Rachel." He clicked the phone off.
Isn't it awfully late at night for Rachel to be calling? "Is anything wrong, Jeff?"
"Not really. Rachel's been doing too much. She just needs a rest. She'll be fine." He took Dana in his arms and said softly, "Where were we?" He pulled her naked body to his and the magic began.
Dana forgot about the problems with the Winthrops and Joan Sinisi and generals and housekeepers and Kemal and schools, and life became a joyous, passionate celebration.
Later, Dana said reluctantly, "I'm afraid it's time for Cinderella to turn into a pumpkin, darling."
"And what a pumpkin! I'll get my carriage ready."
She looked down at him. "I think it's ready. One more time?"
When Dana got home, the woman from the sitter service was impatiently waiting to leave.
"It's one-thirty," she said accusingly.
"I'm sorry. I got tied up." Dana gave the woman some extra money. "Take a taxi," she said. "It's dangerous out there. I'll see you tomorrow night."
The sitter said, "Miss Evans, I think you should know..."
"All evening Kemal kept pestering me about when you were coming home. That child is very insecure."
"Thank you. Good night."
Dana went into Kemal's room. He was awake, playing a computer game.
"Hi, Dana."
"You're supposed to be asleep, pal."
"I was waiting for you to come home. Did you have a good time?"
"It was lovely, but I missed you, darling."
Kemal turned off the computer. "Are you going to go away every night?"
Dana thought about all the emotions behind the question. "I'll try to spend more time with you, darling."